The accidental tourists

Esteban and I had a breakfast date downtown with another couple this morning. The restaurant — Hell’s Kitchen — lies in the heart of Minneapolis’ skyscraper canyon, so parking was a challenge. I eventually gave up on looking for a meter and just pulled into the nearest pay lot.

I was delighted to find myself face-to-face with the old Schmitt Music store’s mural. As I’ve done a dozen times before, I puzzled over the notation. It’s obviously a piano score, but some of the chords are huge. Rachmaninoff, perhaps? Or maybe Chopin?

(Nope. I looked it up online: It’s Maurice Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit.)

We had a great time with our friends. Still, none of us could get over the vibrancy of the downtown scene. The sidewalks were bustling. Inside the restaurant, a superb jazz trio was playing in the background as the tables filled up. This was not the dead zone we remembered from our youths. We joked that we needed to get out more.

As Esteban and I left the restaurant, we paused for a second on the sidewalk to take in the scene. I’d walked down this block dozens of times before but I’d always been in a hurry. Today was different. I was smitten by the contrast of the old architecture against the new.

“Want to go to the top of the Foshay Tower?” I asked Esteban. “Sure! Sounds fun,” he said. So we paid the eight bucks and took the elevator to the 30th floor.

Between us, Esteban and I have lived in Minnesota for a combined three-quarters of a century, but neither of us had ever been to the top of this landmark. The best reason we could muster is that it had never occurred to us to be tourists in our own town.

The museum was modest but thorough. I guess the same could be said for the panoramic view from the top.

Although I was a little underwhelmed (after all, I’ve been privileged to see the world from the Grand Canyon and the top of the Eiffel Tower and the World Trade Center), I was glad we’d made the trek. It was interesting to see my city from a new perspective. And it was fun sharing the space with some tourists from Germany and Japan.

When you live in a city, I think there’s a natural tendency to be blind to its attractions and charms. My adventures with Esteban this morning reminded me that you really don’t have to travel too far to see the world with new eyes.


  1. I’ve never been to the top either! I’ve never eaten in Hell’s Kitchen although I walk by enough. That’s right next to the fondue restuarant and all its yumminess.

    • Never been to Hell’s Kitchen or the top of the tower? Let’s make a breakfast date and do both. It’s a fun way to kill a morning. 🙂

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